Adventuring through Canterbury

This historic town offers nourishing local farms and industries
Canterbury Shaker Village 1

Canterbury Shaker Village

The Shakers were part of the fabric of Canterbury almost from its beginnings. The first converts began meeting only 55 years after the town was granted in 1727, and by the time the Canterbury Shaker Society was founded in 1792, more than 40 of them were living on Benjamin Whitcher’s farm. That 100-acre farm became the Canterbury Shaker Village.    

Shakers here had a different relationship with the town than Shakers in other places. Unlike Shaker communities that began with groups moving into a town, Canterbury’s Shakers were largely home-grown. So instead of the mistrust, suspicion and ridicule that Shakers met elsewhere, here they were treated as the neighbors they’d always been. Many were from prominent local families; one of their leaders was Henry Clough, son of Canterbury’s first settler, Capt. Jeremiah Clough. 

5294 Canterbury United Community Church Canterbury Nh

Canterbury United Community Church

Canterbury was already a thriving town. By 1750, more than 30 families had settled here, carving farms out of the forested hills. A road was built from Durham, and Canterbury had a fort and a trading post where native people exchanged furs. At the time of the Revolution, Canterbury had blacksmith shops, saw and grist mills, schools, taverns and stores. By 1786, the population stood at 860.

Most were farmers, some were artisans and others operated small industries. Many were a bit of everything. Although the sawmills, blacksmith shops and coopers are long gone, Canterbury still nurtures its farms and small family businesses.

The Shakers were known for their fine workmanship, making wooden and metal ware, furniture, boxes, farm tools, brooms, handwoven fabrics, clothing and fancy-work, some of which they sold to outsiders. Canterbury Shakers left a legacy of crafts and furniture still admired today.

Fine hand-crafted furniture is still made in Canterbury, in the cabinetry studio of David Lamb on Shaker Road. Although his designs are inspired by 18th-century European styles and not those of the Shakers, Lamb’s work shows the same attention to detail of fine cabinetmaking. Forms are reminiscent of fine antiques for their graceful lines, exquisite use of wood grain, inlay and carved details, such as flowers or ferns that appear to grow organically from the wood of a table leg. 

The farming that was essential to the lives of early settlers and the Shakers is still alive in Canterbury, as are other small family businesses that have found a nurturing community. 

Since 1969, Fox Country Smoke House has been producing bacon, smoked salmon, kielbasa and smoked cheeses. Just around the corner on Baptist Hill Road, Steven Allman opened Canterbury Aleworks in 2012, brewing “worldly beer with hyper-local flare” in a wood-fired brewery. In the tasting room, open on weekends, he explains his unique brewing process and has more than a dozen brews on tap. Among them might be an old Bavarian peasant beer, or a British countryman’s beer brewed with English toffee. Allman’s Granite Ledge Stout is brewed with Granite Ledge Coffee beans, roasted in Canterbury. Granite Ledge began in the 1990s, when Christopher Evans roasted coffee beans in an iron skillet heated over an electric oven, selling them at a farmstand down the road. Today, he roasts specialty-grade beans in a state-of-the-art system sourced from farmers around the world, selling wholesale or direct to customers by mail.

5313 Canterbury Country Store Centerbury Center Nh

Canterbury Country Store and the U.S. Post Office

Newer in town is Cold Garden Spirits, where, in 2016, Greg Meeh set up a distillery in the barn of his childhood home on Shaker Road and began producing bourbon and eau de vie from locally sourced fruits and grains. The latest is his sour cherry eau de vie, made with cherries grown on the property. Working with his brother Tim, at North Family Farm, Meeh produces maple bourbon, while Tim and his wife Jill use retired bourbon barrels to age their unique bourbon-aged maple syrup. The only place to taste and purchase Cold Garden’s spirits is at the distillery, open Saturday afternoons.

A fall tradition for families, Hackleboro Orchards grows apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums, but their claim to fame is PYO apples. On September and October weekends, the orchards are filled with families pulling wagons piled high with shiny red apples, seeing the land via hayride, petting baby animals and munching cider doughnuts. Food trucks and picnic tables encourage visitors to spend the day.

Other Canterbury farms are less participatory but equally active. The 600-acre Brookford Farm sits alongside the Merrimack River, where owners Luke and Catarina Mahoney raise certified organic vegetables, chickens and grass-fed beef and lamb. The creamery produces yogurt and farmstead cheeses, sold along with fresh produce at the farm store, open daily year-round.

On Baptist Road, Donna Miller nurtures seven acres of native plants and woodlands at Petals in the Pines, a blend of native landscape and cultivated gardens. First opened to the public in 2010, Petals in the Pines sells bouquets and offers a PYO flower field, flower-arranging workshops, labyrinths and natural play spaces designed to connect children to nature.

Canterbury New Hampshire, Fox Smoke House, Canterbury New Hampshire,

Fox Country Smoke House

At Clough Tavern Farm, Naomi Scanlon no longer grows garlic but still makes and sells garlic seasoning blends and jellies under the label of Two Sisters Garlic. She also peddles woolen hats, scarves, blankets, throws and yarn made from the wool of her flock of Teeswater sheep, an endangered heritage breed. For 10 days before the holidays, her 1777 Clough Tavern, one of the most historic homes in Canterbury, becomes a five-room boutique featuring her garlic and sheep products and the work of 50 other New Hampshire artisans, artists and authors. 

More small farms dot the Canterbury landscape: At Marsh Meadow Bison on Scales Road, Wally and Katie Archer raise grass-fed buffalo. Kathy and Scott Doherty sell honey and free-range eggs at Sanborn Meadow Farm and at the Canterbury Country Store. Kevin Bragg, at Canterbury Plantation, raises plants that he sells wholesale and at the farm stand on Baptist Road. 

To see the wide amalgamation of Canterbury farms and products all in one place, stop by the Canterbury Community Farmers Market every Wednesday from June through September (and on July 29 at the 65th annual Canterbury Fair).

Following the Civil War, townsfolk formed the Farmers and Mechanics’ Association to promote agriculture and town industries. As a way to feature agricultural products and the work of local artisans and households, they initiated a town fair. In 1958, the fair was expanded to include a chicken barbecue, drawing a huge crowd and starting the Canterbury Fair as it’s known today. Now sponsored by several community groups, the fair can draw as many as 10,000 visitors.

Canterbury Center — a picturesque assembly of white buildings bounded by the Canterbury Country Store, the United Community Church, the Canterbury Center Bed and Breakfast and a cemetery — overflows with activities and 37 booths featuring local artisans. Musicians perform on the bandstand, and surrounding buildings sell antiques, books and “whatnots.” The Canterbury Historical Society displays exhibits in the Elkins Memorial Building, and opens up Center School House — a one-room brick building from 1845 — for the fair.

Canterbury New Hampshire, Hackleboro Farm, Pyo Apples, Fruit And Vegetables

Hayride at Hackleboro Orchards

Categories: Family-friendly things to do, Our Town